Mass Incarceration Thesis

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On my way back to Miami, waiting for my flight at La Guardia Airport in New York and was eager to board my plane, I decided to watch the nearby television to pass time. That’s when I learned about who Michael Brown was. He was an unarmed black teenager, shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, in Ferguson, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis. On the TV screen were countless vivid images of the scene of Brown’s death and almost instantly it became ground zero for local outrage. Devastated to hear that yet another another teenage boy was killed by law enforcement, it was clear to me that there was an urgent need for justice in the US. The weeks following Brown’s death, news channels reported protesters flooding the streets near the …show more content…

Mass incarceration is a product of our nations century long historical process that began with a group of people defined by race. Slavery was the economic backbone of the South and after the South’s economic system was destroyed by the ratification of the 13th amendment, they needed to rebuild. But what was consequently seen was a transition from slavery to incarceration. By labeling newly freed slaves as criminals we saw the government legally restricting their freedoms leaving them held back socially, politically, and economically. The thirteenth amendment did in fact abolish slavery and involuntary servitude but it did in a way with the exception as Through this blacks were criminalized through legislations made by former slave states ranging from absence of work, loitering, possession of firearms, public display of intoxication etc. (Wilson 177) This caused our nations first prison boom. Some of the crimes were even placed in a way where only black people could be “duly convicted”, essentially reviving slavery in disguise at a time where the south needed black bodies working. Efforts to label black people as criminals were also seen through racist propaganda and the way people were describing them at the time, characterized as a menace or threat to society. The insidious nature of slanted imagery had rippling effects, even leading to the rebirth of the Klu Klux Klan with films such as “The Birth of a Nation” which was viewed in a romantic light and seen as a positive portrait of America at the time, even screened at the White House. (Randy 128) When in reality the “The Birth of a Nation” director, D.W. Griffith, actually fed to the efforts at identifying blacks with crime by evoking fear as a tool to solidify white supremacy in the U.S. This film and many other efforts to portray black people as criminals led to a new wave of terrorism and violence against them, to the point where geographic demography was shaped by this

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